ByHand is a website promoting the 'social experience' of handmade. It is a non profit community, all the funds are put back into advertising the site, the creator Adam Kendall, believes that his website is more of an artisan co-op than a consumerist social networking site. ByHand claims to actively advertise to buyers and not just sellers.
I like this analogy they give,
"We are the farmers market or craft fair that allows you to make those personal connections with your customers online, but there are no booth fees, because you already have 3 booths elsewhere. So now you have that single place that you can promote instead of three."
The site aims to help artisans to conglomorate all of their online shops and social media sites into one and gives you an address that you can use for 'one-stop' promotion - that really appeals to me so I registered to see how the site handled - my new address is http://haptree.byhand.me/ It's straightforward registration and profile building as with any online shop or Ning but it has a few extra features.
Its worth exploring all the bits on the profile as if you're using the site correctly a visitor really can get a whole picture of you and all of your online activity from the one place, which might prove very useful for business cards or for scribbling down just one webaddress if someone comments on your handmade purse at the supermarket! Also your twitter feed and any tweets mentioning your name show up on your profile page. For me this is great as you can see a whole conversation!
Artisan Directory - An A-Z of all of the artisans in a gallery format. The creators have the top spots but they probably deserve that! It's searchable too.
Spotlights - Etsy, ArtFire, 1000Markets, DaWanda, SilkFair, Made It Myself, ShopHandmade, iCraft.ca, WinkElf, Foodzie and Zibbet - You can make fantastic 3 x 3 treasuries of work (including your own) using images from any of these shops - All your best stuff displayed in one place. Currently the most popular spotlight has been viewed 924 times since it was created 8 months ago - They compare very favourably with an etsy treasury spot as they are never removed. You can also easily tweet these spotlights with one click.
Forums - These are well laid out - I did post a new thread yesterday to ask people to let me know their thoughts about byhand but I didn't get a single view on it so it appears the forums aren't buzzing, but maybe I caught them at a bad time - there are lots of html and smilies to perk up your thread posts. Your recent forum posts can all be accessed from your profile page at the bottom which is useful.
Member Blogs - Again great for keeping everything in one place. You can also tick a box to post the link directly to twitter and the front page of ByHand! That has to be a boost for advertising your newest creations and shop news. It has all of the formatting features of Blogger so far as I can tell. here's mine http://haptree.byhand.me/blog Nice easy address to remember.
Social Networking - You can make 'connections' with other sellers or buyers and also make notes on these to remind you why you connected ie. great gifts for blokes.
Chat - I've never been any good at online chat and much prefer twitter for this sort of thing so I wont comment on this other than to say it has the feature!
Private Messaging - does what it says on the tin
RSS Feeds - I added my Blog, Folksy and my Etsy RSS. When you mouse over the links in your profile it shows the images and details, I really like this feature, apart from it not showing my Folksy images just the text (?)
Handmade Wishlists - Download the 'wishlist' toolbar gadget (easy instructions) and instantly add handmade items from a number of different handmade venues to your wishlist without having to navigate away from the page your on. You can also instantly grab all your favourites from Etsy! Very useful for gift buying and you can reorganise them to your hearts content.
Artisan Item of the Day
Look - they made me artisan of the day, Not sure what the requirements are for this - I guess they are handpicked but what a compliment - maybe it's because they just saw the thread I posted about writing this review!
Create n Trade - To begin with I thought this was where I had to upload my products but it's actually just a place to add an item you'd be interested in trading, look under My Creations in the My Stuff tab - you upload the details much like adding an etsy listing and then let people know what you'd be looking for in return. Basically Swap Shop without Noel Edmunds.
I think you can probably tell I like this site but I don't love it visually and I think in the handmade market that is so important, especially if you want people to stop and look around but the spotlights make up for that as it's such an easy way to find great new sellers, this is personal taste though so not such a big deal! I'd also like to be able to reorganise my profile page as it looks a little boring. There are a few niggles visually with some words overlapping and incomplete boxes - that may be due to my browser but it looks a little unproffesional. I was also getting lots of security warnings but they have a whole section on why this happens so I'm not too worried by that.
My biggest gripe is that until they add Folksy (my main selling venue) I can't really get the real benefit from spotlights and wishlists although it does give me a reason to stock up my Etsy shop! I've posted on a thread asking the site owner if he can share any news of future venue additions but haven't heard back yet. So far they have - Etsy, ArtFire, 1000Markets, DaWanda, SilkFair, Made It Myself, ShopHandmade, iCraft.ca, WinkElf, Foodzie and Zibbet. If you only sell on Folksy or Misi or another not listed I wouldn't discount it completely as there are still some good features - especially that your most recent blog posts go to the front page.
Let me know if you intend to register or you already are, I would love to hear all your comments on http://www.byhand.me/ :o)